Haunted Isle | Spooky tales of Mercer Island’s past

The Calkins Hotel burned down in the East Seattle neighborhood under mysterious circumstances. - Reporter file photo
The Calkins Hotel burned down in the East Seattle neighborhood under mysterious circumstances.
— image credit: Reporter file photo

Centuries ago, the Duwamish Indians would not set foot on Mercer Island past dusk. The Island, shrouded in fog and dark with mystery, was believed to be filled with spirits. Natives who hunted and foraged on the Island by day made haste to row away before sunset. When the first settlers came to Seattle, the Duwamish agreed to canoe the men over to explore the Island but refused to accompany them through the night, returning instead to pick the settlers up the next day. Since that time, Mercer Island has grown rich with stories of haunted landmarks and restless souls. Here are some of the Reporter’s favorites:

Appleton Lane:

The quiet street off East Mercer Way, Appleton Lane, is the site of the Island’s only known cemetery. In the early 1900s, the Olds family discovered this picturesque spot, built a cabin and cultivated an apple orchard, naming their new home Appleton Lane. When Charles Olds, the patriarch of the family, died in 1898, he was buried at the top of the apple orchard. His wife, Agnes, joined him shortly afterward. In total, five members of the Olds family were laid to rest in the orchard. A stone obelisk once marked the spot. The graves were eventually exhumed (and the obelisk removed) sometime during the 1960s. Today, the site has been lost to development. Yet Appleton Lane has remained a spooky chapter in Island lore ever since.

South Point:

South Point, once referred to as “Murder Point,” is the site of a double homicide in the late 19th century. In 1886, “land fever” swept Mercer Island. One particular dispute over land on the Island’s southern-most point ended in bloodshed when land title investigator James Colman confronted pioneer George Miller over a questionable claim. Tension between the two men grew until Colman set out with a young boy by boat to Seattle to file charges against Miller. Neither were seen again. Shortly after the incident, detectives found a boat covered with blood near South Point. The bludgeoned bodies eventually washed up on shore. Miller was tried and acquitted three times for the murders. He later confessed on his deathbed. Whether the murdered souls ever found rest remains a mystery.

Calkins Landing:

The historic Calkins Hotel, which once stood tall over Lake Washington, burned to the ground exactly 100 years ago. But before it disappeared into ashes, the luxurious East Seattle hotel was home to shady characters and haunting incidents: During the hotel’s heyday, two men reportedly rowed away from Calkins dock with a loaded handgun. When the boat returned, one of the men had been shot dead — the killing said to have been an accident. The young daughter of the hotel’s owner and builder, C.C. Calkins, died tragically after falling from a window. The Calkins’ own mansion, built on the same property, burned to the ground. Not long afterward, Mrs. Calkins died. Her husband, heavy with grief, left the Island and was never seen again. The hotel’s final demise came in 1908 when a disgruntled houseboy, angry over a scolding, stuffed greasy rags into the chimney, setting the wooden hotel to flames.

Youth Theatre Northwest:

Youth Theatre Northwest is home to an urban legend about the unsettled spirit of a teenager who killed himself by driving his car into the theater wall in the 1970s. Student actors and those who work at the theater late at night swear they have felt a presence in the building. In an attempt to unravel the mystery, A.G.H.O.S.T., a Seattle-based ghost-hunting team, investigated YTN with the Reporter shortly before Halloween last year. The team of paranormal experts used high-tech equipment such as an EVP monitor, a device which detects electronic voice phenomena, digital cameras to look for “orbs” and an electromagnetic field monitor to detect energy. While conducting a seance in the boys’ dressing room, a mysterious “slam” was heard after ghost hunter Dani Davis asked “Did something bad happen here?” Davis said she felt something “very unsettling” in the boys dressing room. She wanted to bring a psychic back, but never did.

The Roanoke Inn:

One of the oldest buildings remaining on the Island, the Roanoke Tavern, built in 1914, has long been the subject of urban legends and haunting stories. Although owner Dorothy Reeck says that she has never seen any spooks, she admits that the historic inn could be home to a ghost or two. “If there are ghosts, they’re a lot of happy ones,” she said. “Nothing scary.” Yet Roanoke patrons have their own stories. Ask one of the tavern’s veteran bar tenders, and he might share a tale or two. Sit there long enough over a few pints this Halloween, and you may walk away with a story of your own.

This article relied on “Mercer Island Heritage,” by Judy Gellatly.

Halloween on Mercer Island

Trunk or Treat

6 p.m., Oct. 29

Pumpkin carving, crafts, costume parade, decorated car trunks.

Holy Trinity Lutheran Church;

8501 S.E. 40th St., 232-3270

Pumpkin Patch Party

4-6 p.m., Oct. 31

Ages 3-9. Games, face painting, fortune telling, prizes, obstacle course, fun bouncer.

Boys & Girls Club

2825 West Mercer Way, 232-4548

All Hallow’s Eve

5 p.m., Oct. 31

Candlelit prayer service; Halloween refreshments, activities.

Emmanuel Episcopal Church

4400 86th Ave. S.E., 232-1572

Dugans’ Haunted House

6-9 p.m., Oct. 31

9228 S.E. 59th St.

Marian Dugan: 275-3813

Mercer Slough Haunted Hikes

6:30, 7:30, 8:30 p.m., Oct. 31-Nov. 1

$8/children, ages 5-8; $10/adults.

Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center

1625 118th Ave. S.E., Bellevue, (425) 452-4624

Fiesta Autumn Festival

6:30-9 p.m., Oct. 31

Family-fun games; $5

New Hope International Church

9170 S.E. 64th St., 275-1042

The Lakes

Trick-or-treating. Bring canned food donation.

Watch for signs along S.E. 72nd Street, on the South end.

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